Chile’s Atacama Rally kicked off today – the fourth round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship – with Team HRC performing well in stage one after dominating yesterday’s prologue.
Team HRC faired well over the 230 kilometre first stage of the Atacama Rally and finished the day well-poised to tackle tomorrow’s stage – the longest of the event. Nevertheless, were it not for a minor navigation error by Argentinean Team HRC rider Kevin Benavides, the result could have been even better. Benavides had won the curtain-raiser on the Honda CRF450 RALLY the previous day and chose to start from an attacking position in fourth place.
Indeed, attack he did from the outset this morning, which had been delayed due to early morning mist that wouldn’t allow the race helicopter to take off. By kilometre thirty the Argentine had overtaken the three riders who had started ahead and now found himself opening the track. However, an incorrect choice of path lost him several minutes and the leadership to local rider Pablo Quintanilla.
Portuguese Paulo Gonçalves, third in the prologue yesterday, chose a fifth place start and attacked in his inimitable style. In spite of maintaining a scorching pace, a GPS issue left the rider without a signal for over 100 kilometres, forcing him to slow the rhythm down. Quintanilla was able to catch up and the two crossed the line virtually together.
American rider Ricky Brabec was feeling at home with the off-piste type of rallying that featured throughout the first stage of the Atacama. After a steady ride, the Team HRC man finished in fifth spot, some five and a half minutes adrift of the race leader.
Argentinean Franco Caimi, from Honda South America Rally Team, also got off to a notable start to the rally taking seventh place on the Honda CRF450 RALLY.